Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pushed By the Wayside Again

Homelessness is a serious problem. I've been homeless now since 2010, off and on. I blame no one but myself for being homeless. I just need help getting out of the rut that I'm in.

And therein lies the problem. People who are not homeless might sympathize with me, but somehow that problem keeps getting pushed aside - literally in the case of Columbia South Carolina, where it is now illegal to be homeless and be downtown at all.

So people would rather ignore the problem of homelessness, or think it's someone else's problem rather than one they could act on. Sure, church groups feed the homeless, but do they offer permanent housing to them? And the simple fact is, if you take all the money spent on 'helping' homeless, like in shelters and soup kitchens and clothing drives and everything else being done for homeless people and concentrate it on housing, training and health care, including mental health, you'd solve the problem in no time flat.

But no, the solutions offered are all stop-gap methods of placating the homeless, not curing their real problems.

If you concentrated on making the homeless self-sufficient, there would be no problems that didn't involve mental illness, which is another whole animal.

How about giving homeless hiring advantages/preferences to city, state and county jobs? Assuming they have the basic qualifications, it would be solving two problems at once.

Frankly, I'm tired of playing the game. I'm supposed to go one place to get food stamps, another to get lunch for free. I'm supposed to be mobile enough to look for work, but the number of bus passes available is extremely limited and walking is so severely limiting in how far away I can go, and bad for the health of a diabetic.

And I know that there are a lot of important things going on right now. I read the news. I know there's a lot on people's minds. But please don't push aside this problem, because it will come right back. As long as nothing is done about it, it's like a slinky going down the stairs. It may seem like it's going away, but until a permanent solution that does not involve shooing us out of town is found, we'll come right back. We are a NATIONAL problem, not local. There should be a NATIONAL solution, not local, and limiting stays in shelters is not the solution. Finding permanent homes is the solution. Please get to work on that, and leave the other politics for another time.

Even in my case, with a Section 8 voucher in hand, I am having difficulties finding an affordable apartment that has openings. Think how bad it is for those that do not have a voucher. Please concentrate. This is important. It will only get worse. And then it will cost more money.

Addendum: I'm not sure I got my point across yesterday. So here goes again. Homelessness is an important issue, and I think some people agree with that, but something seems to always be more important than someone else being homeless, unless that someone is you. I understand that things happen in life that take precedence and I'm not saying we're more important that life-threatening emergencies, but as Frank Lawrence, the director at the shelter says, (paraphrasing) we, the homeless, have to treat the shelter as an emergency, and not as a permanent solution. That said, I'm not altogether sure the shelter is abiding by that, because they simply don't help enough. And if the shelter staff don't help enough, how can anyone expect the rest of the country to treat it as the emergency that it is. I'm panicking because I'm running out of time myself. And I have a means of getting out. But no one else sees that. That is the real problem. No one sees it as an emergency and most people really hope it will go away on its own. That kind of thinking really needs to stop.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Birds and the Bees

As I waited for the bus today, I noticed several bumblebees visiting flowers around the bus stop. I was pleased because they chose to do things the old-fashioned way instead of visiting the garbage cans at Moore Square like I've seen hundreds of bees do. I saw an article in The Independent Magazine about honey and how bees in different counties make different color honey depending on the local flora. I wondered what color trash-borne honey is.

As part of my ritual lately, I've been buying a morning sandwich from a local convenience store with my meager Food Stamp money ($200/month, which doesn't go far when you buy $3.00 sandwiches), which may be in danger of not being filled this month because of glitches in the Food Stamp software North Carolina uses.

Part of the ritual with the sandwiches is I share the crust with the birds that gather at Moore Square. I do this partly because I've had half my teeth removed and the other half will be removed shortly. Vocation Rehab came through on that necessity. Anyway, getting back to the birds: They know who I am, and they've been watching for me. Often one or several will see me and fly down in anticipation. This is fine when I have crust to share, but when they see me in the afternoon, I don't have such gifts. I feel so bad for them.

Yesterday, there was literally a whole flock of them waiting for me. It was a bright morning and their shadows against a wall made it seem like there were twice as many there. They had quite a battle for my crusts.

It occurred to me then, that the homeless men I see all the time aren't so different. They're waiting for a handout, and when they get it, they battle for position and possession. I've seen food brought out into the cafeteria, some extra food donated by one group or another, and a seemingly empty cafeteria will suddenly fill, and the food will be gone in seconds - literally.

Even for the regular scheduled meal times, people will jockey for position as they wait for the food to be served. The usual method of waiting is to sit on the bench leading to the door to the kitchen. People will not just sit on the bench, but around the bench too, rather than stand in line with the other, more patient people. I have to say, that irks me. In all the time I've been coming to SWSC, they've never run out of food during feeding time, even if the food sucks. What difference does it make if you get in the front or not? If they try to stand in front of me, they get an earful.

But in the end, we all get fed, and I do my share to feed the birds and bees too. But I have to say I'm really looking forward to leaving the shelter, hopefully for the last time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An End To Homelessness For Me?

Yesterday I went to a meeting where I received my Section 8 Voucher for finding an apartment. I'll be working with the shelter to get help paying the application fee and security deposit for the shelter. But all in all, it looks like my 2 and a half year struggle with homelessness is about to come to an end. I am, needless to say, delighted, but I figure the shelter staff is probably happier. They were going to throw me out on August 31 anyway.

Update: Over the last couple of days I've perused various sites and booklets looking for an apartment that takes Section 8 but is within the $526/month limit I have to work with. Nothing so far, and that is somewhat frustrating, because many of the apartments on the list RHA gave me are for elderly (i.e. 62+) and I don't qualify for them. I know there are apartments that I can use, but I have to dig deeper than I'd hoped. I'll have to get recommendations from others.